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The calculated attack at Pulwama: Kashmir on front-burner before Saudi visit

The calculated attack on a security convoy in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir that killed nearly 40 troopers was timed for a big visit to the region - that of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who begins a visit to South Asia this week with a trip to Pakistan. 
Feb 15, 2019
 
It has happened before. The calculated attack on a security convoy in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir that killed nearly 40 troopers was timed for a big visit to the region - that of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who begins a visit to South Asia this week with a trip to Pakistan. On the eve of the first visit by a United States President to India in 22 years in March 2000,  unidentified gunmen descended on the village of Chati Singhpura Mattan, 64 km south of Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, ordered the men out of their houses before shooting them at point-blank range. India then accused two Pakistan-based militant Islamic groups, the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mojahedin, of carrying out the dastardly killings. Pakistan, as usual, rejected the claim and said India was exploiting the Kashmir tragedy for political purposes. 
 
This attack too, like the one before that President Clinton had then described as a "horrific development", was unlikely to have been coincidental.  The latest incident has happened as Prince Mohammed - the de facto ruler of his Arab kingdom - begins a major visit to Asia, starting with Pakistan February 16. Pakistan is heavily dependent on Saudi generosity and influence. Prince Mohammed is expected to sign agreements worth up to $15 billion, including for three power plants in Pakistan’s Punjab province and an oil refinery and petrochemical complex to be set up in the coastal city of Gwadar in Balochistan where the Chinese are developing a strategic deep-sea port.  
 
His visit to Pakistan comes also in the wake of another suicide attack on Revolutionary Guards in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan on the province’s border with Balochistan that killed 27 people. Both Balochistan and Kashmir are set to figure prominently in Prince Mohammed’s talks with Khan and the latter - goaded by his powerful military - is expected to seek  the Crown Prince's intervention in the Kashmir "dispute". Prince Mohammed is also set to visit India February 19-20 as part of his Asia tour that includes China as the two countries are set to greatly expand their ties beyond energy to investment, counter-terrorism, tourism etc.  Kashmir and the recent terror attack - which Pakistan claims is a result of the state's internal strife and the Kashmiri disaffection with India and not because of any outside meddling and its military support to terrorism - is also expected to come up in Prince Mohammed's talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
Before the Indian national elections in two months, as political temperatures were rising by the day, it is clear that Kashmir is once again on the region's front-burner.
 
 

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